The goals for a team as far as performance is concerned, is and always has been the same. It’s no different for a Street Stock team than it is for a Formula 1 team. It has a lot to do with the chassis setup that allows the four tires to grip better and the car to go faster through the turns.
There are two keys to achieving lower lap times. Those are: to be able to accelerate quicker than your competitors, and to be able to negotiate the turns at a faster speed than others. With our strict engine rules, it is unlikely that you could gain any significant performance with the engine package.
The other area, turn speeds, is one place where we can definitely pick up significant performance, and many times do. This is why we harp on chassis setup and all of those things that go along with that.
What got me going on this, and it’s something I’ve known for many years now but just recently it was brought back to my consciousness, happened while I was watching a YouTube video of a race at Norway Speedway. Our resident test driver, Dalton Zehr, posted a video of a race he had won last year there and I watched the whole race. Here is what I saw.
Dalton started in 12th position, so I got to see where he gained on his opponents, looking on from a roof-mounted camera, as he advanced into the lead. His acceleration performance didn’t seem any different than the others, and in fact he seemed slower at times down the straights and he was not any better getting into the corners.
Where he did shine was at midturn. In several views where he was either inside or outside of another car going through midturn once the field got thinned out, he looked to be several mph faster than the other car. The camera seemed to show that better when he was on the inside and passing a car that was outside. There could have been as much as a 5-mph difference in speed when he was passing the slower cars.
What I have stated many times in the past is that speed gained in the turns will be carried all of the way around the track and that gain is also applied to the straightaway speeds. If each car were to have equal power and equal weight, and accelerated 40 mph from the slowest speed to top speed, then the car going 1 mph faster at midturn would go 1 mph faster all of the way around the track.
One car going an average of 91 mph over an opponent going 90 mph during a half-hour race would gain a half-mile in distance, or a lap on a half-mile track. That sounds about right for most races where the winner usually laps about half the field and finishes a half-lap (or half a mile per hour faster) ahead of the 10th place car.
So, I did some calculations on what that would mean as far as distance per lap was concerned. I used 1 mph as a reference. If you are going 1 mph faster at midturn than your opponent, then in one lap you would travel 22 feet farther based on a 15-second lap time. That is just a little more than a car length in one lap.
If you were faster by just a half mile per hour, then you would gain 11 feet per lap. So, when you see two cars battling it out for several laps until one car finally passes the other, there is probably less than 1 mph difference in their speeds. That’s not very much, but evidently enough to get the job done.
And that is what we believe is important to know, that seemingly small gains can make the winning difference in performance. It’s not about huge gains in this game, it’s the small stuff and five things that add 0.2 mph add up to that 1 mph we are talking about.
So many times when I talk to race teams, they want to know what the big deal is with the winning car. Trust me, it’s not about anything big; it is all a bunch of small things like proper Ackermann, setup balance, alignment, rear steer, and so on. When you have gone over and made right each and every chassis parameter that is a high priority on the performance list, you’ll be in a much better position to win a race.
If you have comments or questions about this or anything racing related, send them to: email@example.com, or mail can be sent to Circle Track, Senior Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.